Tuesday, January 17, 2012

January: thankful and red cabbage and apples recipe

January 2005, so far not January, 2012

Here we are, back to the routine.  January.  Girls are back on campus.  Greg's either on conference calls in his basement office or on the road/in the air.  Lululemon is still selling very cute stretchy clothes and thanks to my highly entertaining co-workers I'm still part of that team.  Tennis is back in full swing (that's a bit of an unintentional pun).  And not only am I playing again, but I'm likely to be found up way too late or too early watching a good match from the Australian Open.  It's been my goal for years to be there in person in 2013 for an early 50th birthday celebration with Greg, Susan and Joe.  We'll get a little further along in 2012 and see if we need to adjust that dream.  For now, we'll leave it penciled in.  

Now that the chaos has subsided, well for at least another week and a half until my Super Bowl XVI volunteer shifts at the NFL Experience fill up my calendar, there's a little time for let's just say breathing.  And sometimes thinking.  Luxuries.  The last weekend the four of us in my little family were all under one roof Greg grilled a nice big turkey breast and I fixed all the Thanksgiving/Christmas side dishes we hadn't yet had since I did not host either celebration.  Stuffing the way my Dad has always made it, but with less butter and some whole grains.  Red cabbage that goes way back on my German side, but with apples because I like it that way.  Mashed potatoes because I just plain love them.  Brussel sprouts because apparently everyone loves them and I've never fixed them.  And of course I made cranberry sauce.  If you aren't having gravy, you better have cranberries.  I do make gravy if I roast a turkey.  My girls do not eat gravy.  I never made it when they were little and now when they ask how it's made, well, saving some of the fat and using it as the base for cooking just doesn't sound like something they eat.  But Kelly and I eat cranberries.  

And we all enjoyed every bite.  I can't speak for all of us, but I spent those hours in the kitchen and those minutes at the table just thankful.  With any luck, that was the last Christmas holiday Kelly will have three weeks off to just hang out at home.  I have no idea what working in the PR world will involve, but I'm guessing they do not give you three weeks off for the holidays.  And the whole goal is to have her gainfully employed even if she's across the country or the world.  So Greg and I would just listen to the sisters upstairs drying their beautiful long manes of hair, sharing a bathroom and stories and laughs.  We'd stay up way too late because college girls are used to that and they gave up time with their friends to hang out at home and watch football or a movie or that god-awful Travel Channel ghost adventures or whatever show.  Didn't matter.  Just like when they were babies and they'd fall asleep nestling in on your neck and you held them there a few extra minutes just to firmly imbed the smell and the touch and the softness of their little pink cheeks so you wouldn't need a picture, you'd have been present and aware and just taken it all in.  That connectedness.  That whole reason you were put on this planet.  You were there.  You experienced all of it.  Maybe you drifted off for a little shut-eye half way through the movie or the midnight sermon or whatever because truly there isn't always enough of you to be present every moment.  But you were there.  And it's all good.  

So I can tell you that this isn't the prettiest food picture I've ever taken.  Far from it, but it's what was left when I got to the table.  If you've never bought a nice frozen turkey breast and roasted it in your grill (rinse it, remove the giblets, smooth on some olive oil and a nice rub and watch the thermometer and just keep it around 350 degrees for an hour and a half or however long you need to), you should.  Makes a great meal and maybe some lunchmeat for later in the week.  If you aren't  half German and weren't raised eating red cabbage, it is delicious.  Look up a Wolfgang Puck recipe.  He's all German and knows a bit about his cabbages.  This time I adapted a Tyler Florence recipe to save a little time.  Enjoy!

Red Cabbage and Apples

one head read cabbage (about 2 pounds)
2 T butter or 1 T butter and 1 T olive oil
1 large white or yellow onion, sliced
3 tart or Granny Smith Apples, cored peeled and sliced thinly
1/2 C chicken broth
1/3 C cider vinegar
2 T sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Quarter the cabbage and cut out the core.  Finely slice cabbage.  Rinse in cold water, drain and set aside (I used my salad spinner).  In a large pot, melt the butter (or butter and oil) over medium heat and saute the onion and apples for 3 minutes until they begin to soften.  Add the cabbage and broth.  Cook for 5 minutes until it begins to wilt.  Stir in the vinegar to keep the bright red color.  Add sugar, salt (start with a good 1/2 tsp and add more as needed) and pepper (again 1/2 tsp to start) and cover to cook for another 20-30 minutes until cabbage is soft, stirring occasionally.    

a little meringue cake for a little dessert

meringue cake just out of the oven and still puffy
I actually do cook, not just bake but I'm apparently on a little roll with the baking posts.  I have a little dessert of some kind almost every day.  It works for me.  Do not judge.

I have an entire day off today and I'm loving it.  Took a big lap around the hood when it was still in the 50's and enjoyed the light rain moisture boost.  Caught up on some paperwork, but still badly need to clean my desk.  Drove downtown to a lovely yoga class with Erin Morgan at Invoke, the teacher responsible for hooking me on vinyasa yoga.  Bought some bird food for the big feeder in the woods to 1. feed the poor birds as the temperature dropped 20 degrees while I was in the cozy yoga studio and 2. entertain my cat while he sits on the bay windowsills in the basement and watches the birds at the feeder and in the heated bird bath.  And then I made a little lunch and while the oven was hot and I had two overripe bananas I made another tray of banana oatmeal snack cake adding some walnuts this time for a little oomph.  So while the cake's in the oven and I'm stalling on my main objective for today to clean our closet (don't worry, I have to do it and it will get done before nightfall) I thought I'd write one more baking post.

It's that time of year when everyone is mindful about their intake.  Let's face it, even though I don't own a scale and my jeans still fit (even freshly out of the dryer) there's some modification necessary after a long holiday season of hours and hours at lululemon and only minutes and minutes of cardio.  Lululemon employees take fitness classes of all kinds somewhere in the city almost everyday (it's research and a really amazing benefit) so it's more fun than usual to meet your fitness goals.  I'm an everything in moderation person so I'll still bake, I'll just be sharing more.  Probably with my lululemon friends since they'll be burning it all off!

This cake is a vintage recipe from my mother-in-law.  It's easy to whip up early in the day for after dinner.  It's a nice little cake made in a 9 x 9 x 2 pan so you just can't get into that much trouble.  It's best served with berries which you can macerate (stir in sugar and let sit to bring out the juices) or just serve fresh.  I've found beautiful blackberries, raspberries and blueberries on sale the last couple of weeks which is so fun when usually this is frozen berry time of year.  I love meringue and pretty much decided that I'll either make this cake or a pavlova for my birthday.  This plan hinges solely on the availability of good berries in late February and if anyone else offers to bake or buy something for my big day.  Always welcome!

Meringue Cake

2 C fresh berries macerated with 1/4 C sugar,  2 T berry or citrus liqueur optional

1 1/4 C flour
1 C sugar
1/4 C butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp grated lemon peel
1/2 C skim milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
2 egg whites

2 egg whites
1/2 C sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine all cake ingredients in a stand mixer at low speed for 30 seconds, scrape sides of bowl and increase speed to high and beat for 2 minutes.  Pour into sprayed 9 -inch square pan.  Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees.  Remove cake from oven.  Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees while you prepare the topping in a clean mixing bowl with stand mixer and whisk attachment.   Beat egg whites at high speed until foamy.  Beat in sugar a little at a time until peaks are stiff and glossy.  Spread meringue over cake.  Bake 8-10 min until meringue is light brown.  Cool completely.  Serve with berries.

Serves 9, 285 calories, 5 g fat


cake going into the oven

cake out of the oven 

topped with soft meringue
 (my bowl was not completely dry which is probably the culprit, still worked)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

bake something! cinnamon bun bread

Let me just start by saying this is the best sweet dough bread recipe in my collection, the one I make for gifts and company and when I just want the heavenly scent of baking bread and cinnamon.  I clipped this recipe forever ago from Cooking Light.  It made if from the manilla folder filing system and into my recipe binder and finally onto my blog.  I use my trusty bread machine to make the dough and then shape it by hand before baking in the oven.  It's not tricky to mix the dough by hand and then knead it yourself.  Give yourself a little time and allow yourself to make a small flour-y mess in your kitchen.  Get your kids to help you roll out and roll up the dough.  The recipe makes two loaves which are basically three giant cinnamon rolls joined at the hip in your bread pan.  The recipe calls for butter, egg yolks, sugar and lots of vanilla in the dough and that's the key.  Those lovely ingredients are precisely the reason you do not need to brush the dough with melted butter or even put the icing on top when the loaves are baked and cooled.  All of that would make the bread useless in the toaster (and it's fabulous toasted) and would add all kinds of calories I'd rather consume just eating more bread.  I've adapted the recipe to include white whole wheat flour for a whole grain boost.  You can just use all-purpose flour, but try the white whole wheat flour (I use King Arthur flour and it's easily found now at Meijer and Super Target in Indy).  I know it's January and everyone is counting calories, make them count.  Eat real food!

I have a decided weakness for sweet dough baked goods and have used this dough to make cinnamon orange rolls, cinnamon rolls and most recently my version of Panera Bread's Holiday bread.  The last three or four years I've bought at least one loaf of Holiday bread for Christmas morning knowing full well that really only Kelly would share it with me.  This past Christmas I split the dough between one loaf of cinnamon bun bread and one Holiday bread.  I rolled out the dough and spread Apple Pie preserves from Froelich's in Michigan and sprinkled mini chocolate chips, raisins and coarsely chopped walnuts over the preserves.  Then I rolled it up to make a long loaf which I baked on a baking sheet.  The Panera version has a confectioner's sugar glaze and since you can't toast it with all the fillings, I'd recommend the glaze.  I'd also add either candied orange peel or freshly grated orange peel.  Forgot that this year, but will remember it next time.  It's a great dough, get creative!

oh, the possibilities for deliciousness!

Somehow I have no photos of this bread in all 17,000 photos in my iPhoto library.  I promised my brother-in-law and fellow bread baker, Jeff, that I would post this recipe so I'm going without the usual visuals.  Next time I bake it, I'll add some pictures to this post.  Have no fear, even though my girls are back on campus I'm still cooking and baking.  Tonight I was so hungry after work and yoga that I made turkey bolognese and a big loaf of harvest grain bread.  It's 9:00 and I'm still in the kitchen and I'm the only one home besides the cat.  Apparently I'll do anything to avoid the housework that's been waiting for me since before the holiday season.  It's not going anywhere.  As soon as I wrap this up, it's time to put my feet up and watch Modern Family off the DVR.  I've earned it.

2 1/4 tsp yeast (one package if not using bulk yeast)
1/4 C sugar, divided
1 2/3 C warm skim milk (usually heat in the microwave for 2 minutes at 50% power)
1/4 C butter, melted
4 tsp vanilla
2 large egg yolks
3 C all-purpose flour, divided
2 C white whole wheat flour
2 tsp salt

2/3 C packed brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

1 T butter, softened
1 C confectioner's sugar
1 T skim milk
1/2 tsp vanilla

To prepare bread dissolve yeast and 1 T of the sugar in the warm milk, let stand 5 minutes until foamy. If using bread machine add the yeast/milk mixture and the ingredients that follow to the bread pan and run machine on the dough cycle adding additional flour as necessary.  If making dough by hand, in a large bowl combine milk mixture, 1/4 C melted butter, vanilla and egg yolks.  Add 2 1/2 C of all-purpose flour, wheat flour, remaining sugar and salt to the wet ingredients and stir to form a soft dough.  Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes adding additional flour a little at a time as necessary to prevent the dough from sticking to hands.  Dough will be a little tacky.  Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray and cover with a tea towel to rise in a warm place, free from drafts until doubled in size (about one hour).

Punch down risen dough in bread pan or bowl.  Let rest 5 minutes.  Divide dough in half.  Working with one half at a time, roll each portion into a 14 x 7 inch rectangle on a floured surface.  Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon.  Sprinkle dough with half of the brown sugar mixture, leaving a 1/2 inch border .  Roll up rectangle tightly, starting with the short edge folding in sides and pinching seams to seal.  Cut the dough roll crosswise into three pieces.  Place 3 pieces, cut sides up into a loaf pan sprayed with cooking spray.  Repeat with remaining dough.  Cover loaf pans with a tea towel and let rise 30 minutes.

Meanwhile preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Uncover dough and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.  Cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn out onto a rack to cool (or eat it warm, it's hard to resist).

Make the glaze by beating 1 T butter at low speed until creamy.  Add remaining ingredients, beating until just blended.  Spread over tops of loaves.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

the great banana oatmeal snack cake experiment

Last week of a full house for a while.  Luckily for me I started my New Year with two days off.  The very dry Christmas tree is down.  The decorations are on their way into their respective storage boxes.  When the nest is empty again in a week all the cleaning out and organizing that sooooo need to happen will begin.  For now I'm happy to have the time just to getm the laundry all done and the bathrooms clean.  Besides, all my great plans got de-railed when I simultaneously caught a hideous cold and pulled my lower back (at yoga, of all places).  Maybe someone was just trying to get my attention and make me slow down a bit.  I love my job, but my first big-time retail holiday was ridiculously exhausting.  Probably how I got the cold.  Not how I pulled the back.  That tragedy was purely the result of slacking on my core workouts (now that I think about it, work was a bit responsible for that too).  

So now I'm on a muscle relaxer and prednisone on top of my cold medicine.  If this isn't my finest writing,  it could be the sleepy and fuzzy feeling from all the medications.  Seriously, I'm about to slip out of my barstool while I type.  Geez.  

Back to the baking.  When you have four bananas all overripe and squishy you either need to freeze them for smoothies or put them in a baked good.  In the quest for something other than a banana bread, I found a recipe for a snack cake that just begged to be made in the lovely half sheet jelly roll pan I got for Christmas from Kelly or Sara (it's the fuzzy brain, can't remember which girl gave me which pan).  The recipe included all kinds of mix-ins I left out in favor of just the deliciousness of bananas.  But by all means, feel free to add them to your cake:  walnuts, coconut and chocolate chips.  I used half sll-purpose and half white whole wheat flour.  I used brown sugar instead of white (just because I like it).  I traded half the butter for Greek yogurt and added 1/4 C of King Arthur Flour's Cake Enhancer to keep it moist.  Sara assisted on this one and played the part of royal taster masterfully.  We both agreed that we loved the oatmeal in the batter and didn't need the mix-ins in the finished cake.  You can bake this in a 9 x 13 baking dish too, just add at least 5 minutes baking time and use a toothpick to test for doneness .  

Yep, the overwhelming drugged tiredness is sinking in.  Better just get to the recipe before Greg has to carry me from the basement all the way to the second floor.  

Banana Oatmeal Snack Cake

1 C packed brown sugar
1/2 C unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
1/2 C plain Greek yogurt
1 1/2 C mashed bananas (3 or 4 bananas)
1 tsp vanilla
1 C all-purpose flour
1 C white whole wheat flour
1 C oats (big fan of the Bob's Mill brand in the bag)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt (keeps the salt flavor forward which I find delightful 
with the sweet bananas and nutty oats)
1/4 C King Arthur Flour Cake Enhancer (entirely optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a half sheet jelly roll pan or 13 x 9 baking dish.  
In a medium bowl whisk together the flours, oats, soda and salt.  In the bowl of your stand mixture cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after  each egg.  Mix in yogurt, bananas, and vanilla.  Add flour mixture and beat until well-blended.  Pour batter into prepared pan/dish and spread evenly.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until tester comes out clean.  If using a 9 x 13 pan you may need to bake for 30-35 minutes.  Go ahead, have some for breakfast too.  I made some healthy adjustments just for that reason!